January 31st, 2009


The Long Road to Publication

Back in late 2002/early 2003 I wrote a story called "Have You Come to Raise the Dead?" in an effort to exorcise the demons of my recent divorce and the sex addiction I was dealing with at the time. It was a so-so story. I remember the Devil made an appearance at one point, nothing major, just popping in to say hello, I guess, in that messy way that sometimes happens in the first iteration of a story.

Several different iterations were crafted and recrafted in the years that followed. (The Devil didn't make it past that first one, poor guy.) I can't remember how many drafts the story went through or how many rejections it garnered before it finally sold in 2006, under the title "Mysteries of the Cure" (its third name, I think), to Cemetery Dance for the Shivers V anthology, edited by Richard Chizmar.

Originally scheduled for publication in 2007, then 2008, it looks like Shivers V has finally become a reality in 2009. You can read all about it, including who else is in it, at the CD website. Amazon and the other usual online booksellers don't have it listed yet but hopefully will soon.

What a long, strange -- but mostly long -- road it's been to publication for both "Mysteries of the Cure" and Shivers V. It just goes to show that stories that don't sell right away can and often do find a home later. It also goes to show how much of being a published author is about waiting. Sometimes for years.

Edited to add: Also of possible interest, "Mysteries of the Cure" is the closest I've ever come to writing a vampire story.

Notes from the Front Lines: The Gimmick

The other day, flowers arrived at our office for a colleague. The note read, "To find out who sent these, check your email." We were all excited because we thought maybe she had a secret admirer, but that turned out not to be the case. Instead, the truth was disappointing on an almost epic scale.

The flowers were from a writer trying to get her attention. The email he'd sent was a query that began with something like, "Now that you've received my flowers..." It was all a gimmick, nothing more.

Had the book he was pitching been about flowers, or about romance, I could almost understand it. In fact, I might even think it was clever. But again, that wasn't the case. His book had nothing to do with either. Quite simply, the flowers were a way for him to get his query read immediately, to unfairly jump the line in front of all the other writers whose queries she hadn't gotten to yet and who were waiting patiently.

An extremely expensive way to cut in line, I might add. Flowers ain't cheap!

Did it work? Well, she did read his query right away. But did she follow up with a request that he send the proposal, or the full manuscript? I don't know, and in a way, that's my point. Regardless of how lovely the flowers were, whether or not she or anyone else would be interested in his query has to do with the query itself, and nothing else. Is the idea interesting? If the author included a sample in the email, is the writing any good? Does the author have any kind of pre-existing platform upon which to grow an audience? Is there a market for the book? The exact same questions one would ask about queries from authors who didn't send flowers.

My advice to you, dear writers who are reading this, is to save your money, especially in these hard financial times, but even in good times too. Gimmicks may be attention-grabbing, but they won't get you representation, or publication. Only your book can do that. The best use of your time is to make your book amazing, not thinking up gimmicks.

Unless your book is about how awesome chocolate is and you feel like sending me a proposal accompanied by delicious, delicious chocolate, in which case I'm one hundred percent behind the idea.